Friday, July 2, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities

I just finished reading the last post I wrote, the one about the city lights. It’s been a very long time since I have written in my blog, and I have changed just a little bit since writing that post. I had written that particular post about a month after ending my work at Fort Bowie National Historic Site and moving back to Tucson to be with my wife.

It was kind of a hard transition to move from such a quiet, completely isolated place to (what I perceive as) the buzz of the big city. I had a really hard time adjusting back to big city living. I had to change my shopping habits, (I put three dozen eggs, two gallons of milk, and 15 pound ham in the cart before my wife reminded me that we had walked to the grocery store). I had to readjust to the sounds of the night (instead of rushing out to see if I could catch a glimpse of the fox barking outside my door, I was rushing out to see which of my fellow tenants was being arrested that night), and I had to reorient my internal compass (I could hike across a ridge top, down the hill into the arroyo, up the side of a canyon, pick my way through thickets of mesquite and catclaw, and still be able to make it straight to my truck three miles away like a laser. When I moved to the city I got lost in the Tucson Mall).

I imagine that I was feeling about like Adam when he was cast out from the Garden of Eden. However, over the course of the next few months, I began to realize the wonderful things that the city had to offer.

I loved to go to the library. I went there at least once a week, and found that I could feel some of the same quiet that I had living in Bowie, but with books. I found that trips to the grocery store became kind of introspective; it was a ten minute walk down the road and I could alone because it was not a “trip into town.”

But what was striking to me was how much I enjoyed seeing people around. Throngs of people. I could go anywhere and see people doing people things. Things like playing music, talking to friends, muttering to themselves as they walked down the street, drinking, laughing, and living out their lives. I got to meet some of these people like the Hansens, McHughes, and Smiths, who became dear friends. People like Coke who I became way more familiar with than I ever wanted to be (if anybody in Tucson needs a homeless veteran mechanic who camps out in the park on Limberlost, let me know, because no matter where I go, I’m pretty sure Coke’ll show up at some point and I can put him in touch with you).

I really learned how wonderful it is to live with people, because no matter how loud, obnoxious, or annoying people are, we need each other sometimes. And it sure is a lot nicer to be able to walk across the street to see the Hansens than wait until the next time we make the “town trip” to get to see someone.

We’re back at the fort this summer, and I’m loving it. It rained tonight, and nobody wrecked their car outside my house because of it. In fact, those idiots who can’t drive don’t even live out here. In fact, nobody lives out here. It was just me, my wife and that family of javalinas out there watching the rain. But I do kind of miss old Coke. I’d love to hear him ask me for more money to waste on alcohol. And I’d really love to spot him another $1.67.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


I just finished reading the Romantic section in my English literature book. It was really a wonderful section to read, and I'm really excited to get into the next section, the Victorian age, though I'll be surprised if I enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed the Romantic writers. The Romantic style of writing tried to move away from the stiff formality of their predecessors and write poetry in a more natural manner. Indeed, nature itself was a main focus of inspiration. There's nary a poem written between 1795 to 1830 that does not contain some mention of nature. Nature seems to have a special way of grounding a person. It seems to help remind one of what's most important in life, what priorities should be foremost. Life seems to attach itself to us, weighing us down. We are subjected daily to the mundane rigors of surviving. Work, school, keeping house, the exchange of money. These are necessary to merely living in the world, never mind being comfortable. How easy it is to forget who we are, to forget the reason for our existence. We are not born to merely exist; we do not live only to survive. We are born to experience happiness, to feel joy. I think that's what I loved about this past study; Romantic poets wrote in a way that made me feel acutely happy, through the way they defined emotions. I think that these writers did this by stripping away formality to reveal emotion in a purer form. Wordsworth says that poetry is "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings", I believe that he is right. Of course Romantics wrote extensively of feelings that could be defined as negative. Grief, anger, pain, loneliness, sorrow, etc. are experienced daily by humans. Suffering is as a part of life as breathing. If one were to stop breathing, they would cease to live. So it is with hardships, if one ceases to suffer, they cease to really live. This is because without suffering, there is no happiness. Like a man who does not realize he is healthy until he succumbs to illness, we must feel the opposition. Pleasure is insipid when we never feel pain; without anger as a complement, we cannot feel love. Emotions, all of them, remind us of our mortality, and our purpose. To be truly happy, to experience true joy, as is our reason for life, we must experience opposite emotions. The poets whose work I have been reading define such emotions. They have a gift to lay bare their feelings and present them in a way that they become more than just feelings; they become pure emotion. So, although life in general is mundane, and hard, and full of suffering; our everyday drudgery serves to lift us to fulfillment. Our tendency to focus on suffering causes us to forget to feel fulfilled. We trudge through day after day, never casting a thought to the emotions that complement our travails. We need to learn to really feel these emotions, to isolate and define them within ourselves. Then we will truly be able to taste and savor the joy, pleasure, and true happiness that living brings.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

City Lights

My wife and I were driving all over Tucson last night looking for a movie that she had to watch, and we ended up quite ways up into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. We could see the lights of the city below, and Marquette looked out across the valley at the lights and made a comment about how beautiful they were. She asked me, "You don't really think that city lights are very pretty, do you?" I told her no, not really. We talked about it for a couple minutes, and then moved on to something else. I thought a little bit about Marquette's opinion, and how it really differed from my own. I really hate seeing all those lights. I don't like living with a million other people, I don't like the traffic, and i don't like the noise. I really dislike how all those lights completely block out the stars and the moon, and I don't like all the activity that goes on at all hours of the night. 

I think that a landscape lit up by moonlight, devoid of any thing except the fluttering shadow of an owl or a bat is wonderful. Its peaceful, still and quiet, but not silent and motionless. The chirping of the crickets help to digest thoughts about the day. This is what I think is beautiful, and although I can't see for miles across the valley, like I can when all of Tucson is lit up, there is the definite feeling that I am standing in a place that is way bigger than me and my thoughts.